They still trail the Braves 2-1 in this NLCS, but could summon pitcher Clayton Kershaw, slowed by back spasms, in Thursday’s game four against Bryse Wilson, who has just 42 2/3 major league innings to his name.
More important, an offence that hit a major league-best 117 home runs has fully checked in.
The Dodgers clubbed three home runs in that first inning, capped by Max Muncy’s grand slam, and every player in the line-up reached base at least once as they came to bat 14 times. Atlanta starter Kyle Wright faced nine of them and retired just two, immediately after Mookie Betts and Corey Seager jumped him for an infield single and RBI double.
Turned out the Dodgers were just getting started.
Will Smith smoked an RBI double to center field. Cody Bellinger drew a walk. And then Joc Pederson took Wright out to the opposite field for a three-run homer, into the same spot in the Atlanta bullpen where reliever Mark Melancon caught a pair of Ozzie Albies home run balls in games one and two.
In game three, it only served to get the Braves bullpen stirring.
Edwin Rios, making his first start since the wildcard series, smoked a first-pitch fastball out to centre. A Chris Taylor walk finished Wright.
And then things just got downright absurd for the Braves.
After Betts drew another walk and Corey Seager followed with another RBI hit, a Grant Dayton pitch went to the backstop for an apparent run-scoring wild pitch.
But wait! Replays indicated the ball struck Justin Turner’s foot, and the Braves successfully challenged, figuring the extra baserunner was worth wiping a run off the board.
Six pitches later, Muncy rewarded their eagle eye by crushing a Dayton offering 435 feet to right field, his second homer in as many days and the 20th grand slam in league championship series history.
The inning was done. The Dodgers, clearly, are not.
By the third inning, they’d tied an NLCS record with 15 runs scored, broke the franchise record for runs scored in a game and tied an LCS record with five home runs. Dayton, gamely trying to save the remainder of the Braves bullpen, threw 62 pitches, but recorded just six outs and gave up eight runs.
“If we remain steadfast,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said before game three, “we will emerge victorious.”
In San Diego, where the American league championship series is being played, the Tampa Bay Rays missed out on a sweep of the Houston Astros and still need a victory to advance to the World Series.
They lost 4-3 to the Astros in game four but still lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 and have another chance to close it out on Friday (AEDT). And they still have history on their side, as 37 of the 38 teams to take 3-0 leads won them.
They lost game four primarily because Tyler Glasnow gave up a little more than Houston starter Zack Greinke. The Astros jumped out to the early lead, as for the third time in four games Jose Altuve homered in the first inning.
They made it 2-0 in the third when Glasnow walked No.9 hitter Martin Maldonado and, a line drive off his back and another walk later, he allowed an RBI double to Altuve. The early production was some redemption for Altuve, whose costly throwing errors in games two and three were factors in the Houston losses.
The Rays tied it in the fourth when red-hot rookie Randy Arozarena, their breakout star of the post-season, came through yet again. After Austin Meadows got the Rays’ first hit off Greinke, Arozarena lashed a 3-1 curveball over the left field wall to tie it 2-2.
Glasnow had his usual dominant stuff, hitting triple digits with his fastball multiple times and freezing hitters with his curve. But he was falling behind a lot of hitters, and the Astros were getting some good swings.
They eventually took advantage and went back ahead in the fifth. Maldonado singled with one out, then George Springer turned around the fourth straight fastball he saw and crushed it over the left field wall.
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